Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani fled the country yesterday as the Taliban entered Kabul and took control of the presidential palace. Images of the Taliban taking the city, scenes of chaos and crowding at the Kabul airport in an attempt to leave, and rumors of burqa shops booming have a lot of Americans pretending like it's not in spite—or because—of 20 years of U.S. occupation that this "sudden fall" is happening and that somehow, if we just stay a little longer, we can turn the situation around.
The delusional forever-war crowd has been joined by people who just want to slam the Biden administration whenever possible, creating a cacophony of voices advocating for continued U.S. lunacy in Afghanistan.
While acknowledging that "this was a disaster that was produced by four administrations, two Republican (George W. Bush, Donald Trump) and two Democratic (Barack Obama, Joe Biden)," Washington Post columnist Max Boot somehow concludes that "this is on Biden, and it will leave an indelible stain on his presidency."
But some rational thought has managed to prevail, thankfully.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN yesterday that "the idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there I think is simply wrong."
"After 20 years of U.S. effort, the loss of 2,448 soldiers and a trillion spent, Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military," tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.). "At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees."
Oh please. This withdrawal is the greatest accomplishment of either of their lives. https://t.co/BKLFBWzNn8
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) August 16, 2021
One empty, Respectable Centrist line of commentary has been to say that the U.S. leaving is the right decision but that President Joe Biden—who has pushed back by months the withdrawal deadline former President Donald Trump negotiated—was somehow too hasty. It's unclear what some folks advocating this sort of mushy middle ground think could have been done to soften the blow of U.S. withdrawal.
Others suggest that the fault lies in waiting too long to evacuate.
"The rapid reconquest of the capital, Kabul, by the Taliban after two decades of a staggeringly expensive, bloody effort to establish a secular government with functioning security forces in Afghanistan is, above all, unutterably tragic," writes The New York Times editorial board, in a sentiment almost no one can deny. And "the Biden administration was right to bring the war to a close. Yet there was no need for it to end in such chaos, with so little forethought for all those who sacrificed so much in the hopes of a better Afghanistan."
USA Today contributor Daniel DePetris waves away criticisms that the pro-withdrawal crowd was somehow unaware that what's now happening would happen or could've taken steps to prevent it.
"Those who believe a full and complete U.S. troop withdrawal is the best course of action understood quite well what could happen on the ground once the U.S. military left. Removing the best fighting force on the planet from a civil war will inevitably have some impact on the fighting," he writes. But "from the standpoint of U.S. national security interests, which party was winning or losing Afghanistan's civil war at any given time is subsumed by a far more important consideration: after 20 years of backstopping the Afghan government and paying for the Afghan security forces, extending the U.S. troop presence in the country was unlikely to make much of a difference in the war."
This may be "hard to accept" for many, he adds. But it is the reality.
What is happening in Afghanistan isn't like the fall of Saigon. It's like the United States lost another war after destabilizing a country that will likely be a failed state for decades, something which has happened multiple times in the "War on Terrorism."
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) August 15, 2021
Perhaps worse than the mush-mouthed centrist critics is the pure political opportunism this has spawned in some corners, with partisans desperate to blame either Biden or Trump for what's happening now in Afghanistan.
The Republican Party, which bragged about Trump's negotiations with the Taliban, removed that portion from its website.
New: Republican Party has removed a page from their website bragging about Trump's deal with the Taliban that committed Biden to withdraw 5,000 US troops from Afghanistan — and led to the fall of Kabul today.
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) August 15, 2021
Biden and Trump themselves have even blamed each other.
Biden "ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him," alleged Trump. "This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence."
Biden said it was Trump leaving the Taliban "in the strongest position militarily since 2001" that was responsible for current events.
If you think this is a Biden v. Trump thing, you're really missing the scale of this two-decade tragedy.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 15, 2021
But the Biden administration seems to remain committed to withdrawal, and to evacuating at least some Afghan refugees, even as the government sends in more American troops to help with evacuation efforts.
"When I became President, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies' forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict," the president said on Saturday, promising not to pass on the war in Afghanistan to a fifth U.S. president.
"One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil conflict was not acceptable to me," Biden said.
"Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating" the removal of U.S. personnel and Afghan allies from the area, the Department of State and Department of Defense said in a statement.
"We will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks," it continued. "For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States."
A history of U.S. sex work prohibition and its harms. University of Montana professor Anya Jabour has a detailed and interesting piece in The Washington Post outlining how "claims of protecting sex workers have long been used to punish them."
"As citizens and lawmakers ponder competing approaches to the sex trade, focusing on the welfare of sex workers would allow for a rethinking of policies that have done damage for more than a century," Jabour writes.
Against the Open App Markets Act.
— Alliance on Antitrust (@AlliedAntitrust) August 16, 2021
"Ironically, the legislation would damage the value consumers receive from Apple's and Google's platforms," writes the American Enterprise Institute's Mark Jamison. "The legislation would, among other things, require the companies to permit third parties to install their own app stores, allow users to bypass app stores, and permit third-party payment systems."
• The Texas Supreme Court gave a preliminary green light to Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates in public schools. In an August 15 order, the Court issued a temporary stay order to two counties (Dallas and Bexar) that had planned on defying Abbott's anti-mask order and requiring students to wear masks.
• Oklahoma is seeking a do-over in a case questioning whether much of the state's land falls within a Native American reservation.
• U.S. senators are questioning the FBI on the way they used female staff photos as bait in sex trafficking investigations.
• The Department of Homeland Security warns about the terror threat posed by "grievances over public health safety measures and perceived government restrictions."
the War on Terror has been turned inward on the American people pic.twitter.com/FyAFzbcYOO
— ludwig von yeezus ⁹ (@neoconremover) August 14, 2021
• The Biden administration is announcing a large boost to federal food benefits, with average monthly benefits to be raised 27 percent in October.
• People will not let go of the idea of an outdoor motorcycle rally as a COVID-19 superspreader.
• Some 400 counties in America are now minority white.
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• Starting last Friday, "Minneapolis Police Officers will no longer be conducting pretextual [traffic] stops for offenses like expired tabs, an item dangling from a mirror, or an expired license," the city is pledging.
• Business Insider maps out the fastest and slowest growing cities over the past decade.